Chicken, Bacon, Spinach & Mushroom Lasagna

Pieces of free-range chicken breast, outdoor reared smokey bacon, spinach from our allotment (with a little help from Sainsburys) and chestnut mushrooms, layered between sheets of lasagna and wrapped in a cheesey sauce. A bit more time required than the usual fast healthy food, but worth it for no cooking the next day! I made this on Sunday and enjoyed it again on Monday.

Serves 4 :: 60 mins prep :: 25 mins cook :: Lazy Leftovers :: 700 calories per portion

Ingredients

2 free-range, organic chicken breasts

6 rashers of outdoor reared, oragnic bacon (fat removed)

400g spinach

300g chestnut mushrooms

1 white onion

8 sheets of no pre-cook lasagna

1 tbsp olive oil

4 cloves of garlic (crushed)

1tsp rosemary

1tsp bay leaves

1tsp oregano

Black pepper

2 tbsp butter

2 tbsp flour

50g cheddar cheese

50g parmesan cheese

300 ml semi skimmed milk (or enough to make a sauce consistency)

Directions

1. Heat the oven to 200C degrees or equivalent.

2. Dice the onion, chop the chicken into small pieces, cube the bacon, slice the mushrooms and crush the garlic.

3. Heat the olive oil on a very low heat in a large pan and gently fry the onion for a few minutes, then add the garlic and chicken. Once the chicken is sealed add the bacon and mushrooms.

4. Meanwhile, use a pestle and mortar to grind black pepper, rosemary, bay leaves and oregano and add to the pan, stirring until the mushrooms are soft.

5. Wash the spinach and add to the pan, putting the lid on to help steam it and reduce it quickly. You may need to add it in two batches. Once cooked down turn off the heat under the pan. Don’t worry if you find you have a lot of juices in the bottom of the pan, use gravy granules to thicken the sauce or if you prefer drain off. You do want some juices as these will evaporate in the hot oven.

6. Add butter to another pan on a low heat and once melted, add the flour to make a roux. Add a little milk and stir until smooth, then repeat until you have a sauce consistency. Grate in a little cheddar, adjusting to taste and keep on a very low heat (stirring regularly), while you create your lasagna.

7. Take a lasagna dish and spread out half the chicken and mushroom mixture onto the bottom, then arrange the lasagna sheets, then half the cheese sauce. Repeat with a second layer, making sure all the lasagna sheets are covered with sauce (to help them cook) and finish with grated parmesan.

8. Put in the oven for 25 minutes until golden brown on top and serve.

Broccoli & Parmesan Pasta

Stirfried broccoli florets in a white wine, garlic and chilli sauce tossed with wholewheat spaghetti and finished with toasted pine nuts and parmesan. This easy recipe is so quick to make and just requires a fresh head of broccoli – the rest you’ll find in your cupboard.

5 mins prep :: 7 mins cook :: 12 mins total :: 2 servings @ 415 calories per serving :: 5 Weightwatchers points per serving

Ingredients:

  • 1 head of broccoli
  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 50 ml white wine
  • 1/2 red chilli
  • 1 garlic clove
  • Sea salt
  • Parmesan
  • 2 small handfuls of pinenuts
  • 200g dried wholewheat spaghetti pasta

Directions:

  1. Boil a kettle of water and cook the pasta as per pack instructions (about 10 minutes).
  2. Meanwhile, cut the broccoli in to florets; crush the garlic and finely slice the chilli
  3. Heat the olive oil on a medium heat in a large pan, then add the garlic and fry gently for 1 minute to release the flavour. Then add the broccoli florets with the chilli, and salt then stirfry for about 5 minutes.
  4. Once the broccoli starts to colour, add the wine and cook for a further 2-3 minutes as the alcohol cooks off.
  5. When the pasta is ready add the pinenuts to the broccoli until lightly toasted (about 30 seconds), then add the drained spaghetti and toss with a glug of extra virgin olive oil and serve topped with the fresh parmesan.

Foodwitch Factoid:

Stir in a spoonful of green pesto instead of the olive oil at the end for about 100 extra calories per portion and extra flavour. Make extra to reheat for lunch the next day or use any leftovers cold as a tasty snack.

Mushroom & Rustic Lentil Sauce with Wild Rice

Velvety portobello mushrooms in an aromatic lentil sauce infused with garlic and rosemary, served with wild rice and scattered with fresh parsley.

5 mins prep :: 20 mins cook :: 25 mins total :: 2 servings :: 486 cals per serving :: One-off wonder

Ingredients:
* 8 large flat portobello mushrooms
* 1 red onion
* 200ml vegetable stock
* 3 garlic cloves
* 4 tbsp fresh parsley
* 1 tbsp fresh rosemary
* 1 tbsp brandy or white wine (vegan friendly)
* 400g tin of brown lentils
* 80g wild rice
* 1 tbsp olive oil
* Black pepper
* Sea salt

Directions:
1. Boil a kettle of water, wipe the mushrooms, rinse the herbs and cook the rice following pack instructions (usually 20 minutes).
2. Slice the mushrooms into 1cm slices, finely chop the onion, crush the garlic and finely chop the fresh herbs.
3. Heat the oil in a large frying pan on a medium heat, add the crushed garlic and onions and fry for 3 minutes until the onions are softening, then add the mushrooms with the rosemary and half the parsley and cook for a further 5 minutes.
4. Meanwhile, boil a kettle with enough water to make 200ml of vegetable stock; drain and rinse the lentils and make the stock.
5. Add the lentils, brandy and stock to the mushrooms and adjust the heat to keep at a gentle bubble, stirring occasionally and cooking for 10 minutes until the rice is ready. By this time, the liquid will have reduced to leave you with a wonderfully aromatic sauce. Drain the rice and serve scattered with the remaining fresh parsley.

Suggestions & Alternatives
You can serve the mushroom and rustic lentil sauce with pasta or a jacket potato instead of rice. If you can’t decide, why not make double the amount to have a different way another day. Simply cover and refrigerate overnight then reheat in the pan on a low heat for 5-10 minutes. If you choose pasta for the 2nd time your dinner can be ready in under 10 minutes!

Vegetable Lasagne

Chunky peppers, onions and courgettes in a rich tomato sauce, layered in between spinach lasagne pasta and topped with a deliciously thick, low fat cheese sauce. Whip this little beauty up in 25 mins, slam it in the oven and it’s ready in another 25. My top tip is to make more than you need to enjoy it again with zero-cooking another day.  Plus there’s no cook-in sauces so this vegetable lasagne is really cheap to make – costing about £1.50 per serving.

This vegetable lasagne recipe does involve making a bechamel sauce from scratch, but do not fear, it’s really not that complicated. If it goes lumpy just keep stirring until the lumps have gone – it’s great for those arm muscles! Only add a little bit of milk at a time and when you’ve added it stir the mixture quite vigorously. For the best lump-free results, create a little well for the milk to go into and gradually stir in from the edge of the well incorporating a little of the milk on each stir.  Don’t forget that the heat is constantly under the sauce so don’t leave the sauce to do anything else, it only takes about 5-7 or so minutes to make. If you absolutely must leave it, just take it off the heat temporarily and return it when you come back.

4 servings :: 500 calories per serving :: 25 mins prep :: 25 mins cook :: Lazy leftovers

Vegetable Lasagne

Vegetable Lasagne

Ingredients
3 tri-colour peppers (red, yellow, green)
2 red onions
4 courgettes
2 tins of chopped tomatoes with herbs
2 tsp balsamic vinegar
4 garlic cloves
Salt & pepper
4-5 spinach lasagne pasta sheets (no pre-cooking type)
1 tbsp olive oil
1/2pt semi-skimmed milk
1 tbsp butter
2 tbsp plain flour
2 tbsp cheddar cheese
1 tbsp parmesan cheese
1/4 tsp nutmeg

Method:

1. Heat the oven to 220c. Peel and crush the garlic. Chop the courgettes. Heat the oil in a large pan on a medium/high heat. Add the garlic and courgettes and stirfry for about 10 minutes. Meanwhile deseed/chop the peppers into 1 inch pieces and peel/chop the onion into wedges and add straight to the courgettes, strirfrying until the vegetables have softened and starting to colour.
2. Stir in 2 tins of chopped tomatoes with herbs (add 1 tsp of dried basil/oregano if the tomatoes don’t have herbs already). Stir in 2 tsp of balsamic vinegar and season with salt and pepper to taste.
3. To make the low fat cheese sauce, take a small saucepan and melt 1 tbsp butter over the lowest heat setting. When the butter is melted add 2tbsp plain flour and make a “roux” (classic bechamel sauce base) by stirring together with a wooden spoon. The roux should have a similar consistency to sticky dough (just add a touch more flour if it’s too gloopy). Measure out about 1/2pt milk  and gradually add a generous splash to the roux, working in the milk into the dough until the milk has been absorbed and the roux is smooth. Continue to add a splash more milk, stirring it in so there are no lumps, until you have no more milk left and the sauce is a similar consistency to paint (add a bit more milk or stop adding if need be). Then just grate in some nutmeg and some cheddar, give it a stir and it’s done (taste test the sauce and adjust if necessary – “cook’s perk”).
4. To compile the vegetable lasagne take a large oven proof lasagne or casserole dish. Add a third of the vegetable sauce to the bottom, followed by 2-3 spoons of cheese sauce, followed by 2 sheets of lasagne sheets. Then repeat and repeat again so you have 3 layers, making sure you leave plenty of cheese sauce for the topping. Spread the cheese sauce to cover all the lasagne sheets (if they’re not covered they won’t cook). Grate some parmesan to help it go a lovely rich golden brown colour. Then bake it in the oven for about 25 minutes until you can’t wait for it any longer. Enjoy!

Mediterranean Vegetable Pasta

Juicy courgettes, peppers and onions in a red wine, tomato and garlic sauce piled on a bed of wholewheat pasta and topped with a few shavings of fresh parmesean.

Profile:

10 mins prep + 10 mins cook = 20 mins total; 2 servings @ 380 cals or 4.5 Weightwatchers points per serving.

Ingredients:

  • 2 courgettes (slices)
  • 1 yellow pepper (pieces)
  • 1 red onion (wedges)
  • 2 garlic cloves (crushed)
  • 400g of tomatoes (chopped)
  • 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tsp Worcester sauce
  • 50 ml vegetable stock
  • 50 ml red wine
  • 1 tbsp flat leaf parsley (chopped)
  • 1 tbsp flat leaf parsley (torn)
  • Sea salt
  • Black pepper
  • Parmesean (shavings)
  • 200g dried wholewheat pasta (your favourite)

Directions:

  1. Heat a little of the vegetable stock in a large pan, add the garlic and fry gently for 1 minute to release the flavour. Then add the courgettes, turn up the heat and fry for another couple of minutes on their own before adding the pepper and onion.
  2. Meanwhile, add the pasta to a saucepan of boiling water with a pinch of salt, bring back to a simmer and cook for about 12ish minutes until “al dente”.
  3. When the vegetables have softened and starting to colour (after 5 minutes or so), add the tomatoes, stock, wine, chopped parsley, worcester sauce, balsamic vinegar and a pinch of salt and simmer for 10 minutes stirring occasionally. Check the taste and adjust accordingly.
  4. When your pasta is ready, drain well and stir into the vegetable sauce along with the olive oil. Divide into 2 servings and top with the shaved parmesean and torn flat leaf parsley.

Alternative Options:

Make double the recipe to enjoy the next day for lunch, or freeze for your own healthy ready meal whenever you need it. Mix it up by skipping the pasta and serving the vegetable sauce with a meat-free chicken style escalope; jacket potato or hunk of bread. Keep it vegan by using vegan cheese or omitting it altogether.

Foodwitch Factoid:

Nutritionists report that heating food can reduce the nutritional value of food so frying the vegetables gently in stock helps to maximise the benefits. Similarily adding the olive oil at the end provides all the omega-3 & 6 benefits as well as all the flavour.

Nutritional Analysis Per Serving:

  • Calories 380.5
  • Total Fat 9.0 g
  • Saturated Fat 1.6 g
  • Polyunsaturated Fat 1.1 g
  • Monounsaturated Fat 5.4 g
  • Cholesterol 2.0 mg
  • Sodium 1,237.1 mg
  • Potassium 1,104.1 mg
  • Total Carbohydrate 64.4 g
  • Dietary Fiber 12.2 g
  • Sugars 3.1 g
  • Protein 12.7 g
  • Vitamin A 58.7 %
  • Vitamin B-12 0.6 %
  • Vitamin B-6 32.1 %
  • Nutritional analysis courtesy of Sparkpeople.com

Italian Bean & Pesto Tagliatelli

Ribbons of pasta, beans, red peppers and onions wrapped in a sun-dried tomato pesto sauce finished with pine nuts, parmesan and fresh flat leaf parsley.

Serves 2 :: Ready in 10 minutes :: 480 calories per serving :: One-Off Wonder :: Easy Freezy Ready Meal :: Lazy Leftovers

Italian Bean Pesto Tagliatelli

Italian Bean Pesto Tagliatelli

Ingredients:

1 Red Pepper
1 Onion
1/2 Can of Red Kidney Beans (200g)
1 tsp Dried Oregano
8 tsp Red Pesto
2 tbsp Olive Oil
170g Tagliatelli Pasta
2 tbsp Parmesan Cheese (or vegetarian cheese alternative)
5g Pine Nuts
1 tbsp Fresh Flat Leaf Parsley

Directions:

1. Boil a kettle of water and cook the pasta as per packet instructions then drain (6 mins).

2. Chop the onion and fry it gently in the olive oil while you finely slice the red pepper and add this to the pan. Cook till soft (5 mins).

3. Meanwhile, chop the flat leaf parsley and make a few shavings of parmesan cheese and get your serving plates ready.

4. Add 2 small handfuls of pine nuts per person to a non-stick frying pan on a very low heat and toast lightly, constantly shaking the pan so they don’t burn (2-3 minutes). Then turn the pan off.

5. Add the beans, oregano and the pesto to the softened vegetables and warm through (2 mins). Then add the cooked pasta (reserve some pasta liquid to loosen the sauce if need be). Serve with the pine nuts, parsley and parmesan scattered on top.